I’m not talking about what you feel when that car comes barreling up behind you on the highway after you’ve come to a sudden stop in traffic. That near-miss type of fear passes quickly and leaves an adrenaline rush in its wake.
I’m not talking about phobias; fear of heights or needles or being trapped in an enclosed space. Or about abstract fears of loved ones leaving, falling ill, or dying. I don’t mean to make light of those because I have some of them too. But they don’t compare.
I’m talking about fear so intense that it turns the blood in your veins to ice water. Fear that grips your heart and wrenches it up into your throat, nearly preventing you from breathing. It’s relentless and all-encompassing. You can’t eat or sleep or even focus on the simplest tasks because the fear has taken over your body and your mind and your life.
It’s what you feel when you encounter the lump that isn’t supposed to be there. And even before your worst nightmare is confirmed, you know. This fear will be with you until the end of your days.
Oh, there are times when the pressure is relieved and the fear sags like a deflated balloon. You can almost pretend that it’s not there anymore. But then you feel an unfamiliar pain or notice some swelling that shouldn’t be there, and it springs back to life, crowding your heart and lungs. Bigger than ever.
The fear becomes a part of who you are. And if you let it, it can consume you. You can choose to become bitter, lash out, detach, shut down.
Or you can choose to live—truly live—in spite of the fear, using it as a reminder that you only get one chance at this life.